Insect Repellent for Kids: How to Choose and Apply

Choosing a repellent for a child is a responsible task for any parent. It should be as effective as possible against insects and absolutely safe for babies. Otherwise, a walk in the fresh air can be marred by itchy bites on the skin or an allergic reaction to active ingredients. Let's figure out what parents should look for when buying bug sprays for kids and how to use them correctly to benefit to the fullest.

Repellent Types

Conventionally, all remedies on the market can be divided into two main groups: chemical and natural. They come in many different shapes: sprays, lotions, creams, bracelets, stickers, and more. Some of them really work, and some are better off.

Chemical repellents

As a rule, they are most often bought by parents to protect their babies from insects. However, it is worth noting that they are effective against mosquitoes, ticks, and flies, but they will not protect you from bees, wasps, and other stinging insects. In the composition of such products, you can see one of four active ingredients:


  • DEET. This chemical is considered the most reliable mosquito repellent. The higher its concentration, the longer you don’t have to reapply cream or spray. With a DEET content of up to 10% in the composition, the product is considered safe for children over two years old. Younger kids cannot use it.
  • Picaridin. In its action, it is similar to the previous chemical. It masks the skin smell and repels insects. Such remedies have a fairly long period of activity and remain effective up to 8 hours after application.
  • IR3535. This ingredient is eco-friendly as it does not harm the environment and is safe for use by pregnant women and babies from 1 year old, as it has low toxicity. It scares off primarily flying blood-sucking insects, such as mosquitoes and gnats. Moreover, it does not have the characteristic sweet odor like DEET or Picaridin.


Products with these chemicals in their composition also contain natural ingredients such as essential oils and vitamins that care for the skin.

Natural repellents

All natural sprays and lotions are made of those plants' essential oils, the smell of which is not tolerated by mosquitoes, flies, and other annoying insects. You can often see a peppermint, citronella, eucalyptus, cloves, geranium, cedar in their composition. It is important to understand that they do repel insects but do not have the same long-lasting effect as DEET creams, for example. It is recommended to repeat the application regularly to keep them working.


It is a mistake to think that since a product has a natural basis, it is absolutely safe and completely suitable for children. Please read the ingredients carefully before purchasing. Never buy citrus essential oil sprays, as they are highly phototoxic, which means they can cause burns when the skin is exposed to the sun. You should also take into account the individual intolerance of some ingredients. Before use, you can do a test and apply a small amount of a spray on your wrist. If redness or itching does not appear, it can be applied all over the body.


Before using any product, you should carefully read the instructions from a manufacturer. The features and application time may vary depending on the composition and the specific brand, but in general, several main recommendations can be distinguished:


  • Only parents should apply a cream, lotion, or spray to their children's skin. Don't let kids do it on their own. You should put some of the product on your palms and spread it over the exposed parts of the child's body.
  • Any repellent, even the safest, cannot be used for children under two months old. For such babies, it is better to use physical protection in the form of mosquito netting.
  • Do not use more cream than indicated on its package. If you use more than you need, it will not increase the effectiveness but may cause an allergic reaction.
  • It is forbidden to apply repellents to damaged skin areas: scratches, burns, or inflammations. Try to protect these areas in another way, such as thick clothing.
  • Aerosols and sprays are recommended for outdoor use only. Indoors, there is a high probability of the remedy entering your kid's respiratory tract.
  • Follow the application time indicated on the package and do not use repellents more often than necessary. In general, experts recommend avoiding reapplication whenever possible.
  • In the end, rinse the spray, cream, or lotion off the baby's skin thoroughly with warm water and soap, and wash the clothes.


Some products can be applied directly to pants and T-shirts to enhance the protective effect. The packaging should indicate that a product does not stain clothes. In general, repellents do not damage clothing, but DEET-based ones can stain viscose, glass, and plastic. So apply them gently.

Other Ways of Protection

In addition to natural and chemical repellents that repel insects, there are some preventative measures you can take to make you and your baby "unattractive" to mosquitoes and other bugs. Choose the right clothing: pants, a shirt, a long-sleeved T-shirt, closed shoes, a wide-brimmed hat, or a cap. Opt for light or neutral tone clothing, as vibrant colors and floral prints attract insects.


If you travel with your baby in a stroller, put a mosquito net over it. It will create a physical barrier and prevent the bugs from getting inside. Check it periodically to ensure that no holes appear on it during use. Avoid scented baby soap or shampoo as their sweet smell works as a great insect bait.

Protect Your Kid from Bug Bites

As you can see, you can find a suitable repellent against mosquitoes, gnats, and other blood-sucking insects even for the smallest babies. For a higher level of protection, combine several methods, such as specialized spray and bed netting. If you follow the described safety measures, any walk in the fresh air will be a joy. However, get ready for the possible bites and buy a cream or ointment from a drugstore that will help quickly relieve inflammation and itching.